BS3621: Should we stay or should we go?

Whenever a new standard looms on the horizon, manufacturers are faced with the question of whether to wait until they have to apply them or to get ahead of the game. Leading security solutions provider Adams Rite believes that the aluminium industry should start to make its move to BS3621 now. Product manager Tim Almond explains why.

Written several decades ago, locks to the theft resistant BS3621 standard have long been mandated by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) for residential timber door locking systems.  The physical impracticalities of manufacturing a lock case that would fit into a profile with maximum dimensions of 44mm² granted exceptions for aluminium systems fabricators.  The situation was simple:  this sector of the industry did not have to comply with regulations, because there were none. 

Standards essentially set a minimum level that a product has to perform to and integral to them are the benchmarks against which they have to be tested.  If the benchmarks do not exist, the manufacturers cannot test.  This situation changed irrevocably last year with the introduction of EN12209 covering single point locks and latches.   In theory within Europe, there cannot be a national standard that conflicts with a Euro standard, so we saw BS3621 being rewritten to incorporate the relevant points from EN12209 and now we have a fully written standard against which single point locks for aluminium systems can be tested.

As yet, fitting locks to the standard is not mandatory, so should the industry maintain the status quo while it can?  Our view is that it should not, and for a number of reasons.

One argument is that a level of security mandated in the domestic market for between 15 and 20 years should be applied in the commercial market.  Why should customers settle for a less secure solution when there are products available that will meet the standard?

We also have to consider future scenarios.  Secured by Design (SBD) already figures high in the consideration of many specifiers.  As an organisation wholly owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and supported by the government, it draws up specifications for building design from the security aspect.   Although it is written for the domestic rather than commercial building sector, it has already had an impact in the commercial sector – and to a degree is currently causing confusion.  In particular since it covers every aspect that could impact a building’s security, many architects and specifiers are using it as a guide to good practice and attempting to apply all of the principles, including those pertaining to door sets, regardless of the building’s purpose.

The Council for Aluminium in Building (CAB) is currently working with SBD to develop a specification suitable for commercial products especially doorsets.  The standards under consideration include PAS 24, BS 7950 and BS 3621 and will involve independent verification by an approved third party certification body.

The involvement of SBD is significant for our industry.  The government regards security as a high priority and SBD offers the convenience of a one-stop security benchmark.  SBD will also update and define the insurance industry’s minimum requirements in both the UK’s residential and commercial markets.  Inevitably these factors will lead to revision of the Building Regulations to require new build and major refurbishments to conform to the SBD specification, in fact SBD already features in the Code for Sustainable Homes.  The insurance industry also requires minimum door/lock standards which are likely to be based on those within SBD.  Hence the aluminium fabrication sector will no longer be granted the exceptions to the standard that it currently enjoys.

The current question is whether we should wait until all of this is in place.  At Adams Rite we take the view that the industry should take the lead and not wait until the inevitable happens.  Realistically there is no longer any reason to wait. 

In BS3621 we have parameters that enable us to test locks.  We have locks that meet the standard.  With that we have the opportunity to raise the game for security in aluminium doors within our own industry.  Responsible systems manufacturers should be demanding testing to the current standards now, taking the lead and setting their own benchmarks.

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